Whether it’s from work or school or those 10 loads of laundry you need to do, stress is something we’ve all felt from time to time. You probably know from experience that it can cause some unpleasant symptoms like headaches, muscle tension and an upset stomach. But you may not know that in the long term, it can lead to bigger issues—including weight gain. Luckily, there are things you can do to keep this problem in check: a balanced diet, regular exercise and the right supplements may help you avoid putting on unwanted pounds when times get tough.
Why does stress cause weight gain?
Whether directly or indirectly, most stress-related weight gain comes down to cortisol, your body’s stress hormone. When your brain recognizes a stressful situation, it triggers your flight-or-fight response, causing your adrenal glands to release a surge of hormones—including cortisol—and priming your body to take quick action. In the case of a brief danger, like avoiding a car crash, this can be a good thing. But over the long term, high levels of cortisol can impact your sleep, impair your immune system, decrease your energy, slow your metabolism and increase your appetite. Those last two can potentially cause weight gain1,2.
That’s where supplements come in. Taken in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle, these five nutrients may help keep your cortisol under control:
Adaptogens like ashwagandha are natural compounds that help minimize the effects of stress by helping your body to adapt. Ashwagandha, a super root that has been used in traditional treatments for millennia, is probably the most famous of the these, helping to correct imbalances and keep your cortisol levels under control.3 If you’re feeling pressured more than usual and think your pants might be getting a little snug because of stress, try adding ashwagandha to your daily supplements to help manage your stress hormones.*
If your cravings seem more intense lately, your cortisol might be to blame. Elevated levels of cortisol can cause cravings, particularly for sweet fatty foods, potentially leading to weight gain. It also lowers levels of leptin, the hormone that promotes the feeling of satiety, and increases ghrelin, the hormone that boosts your appetite.4 Cordyceps, a fungus that’s been used in traditional treatments for centuries, can act on the adrenal glands to help rebalance these hormones and hush those cravings.*
- Panax Ginseng
Stress and fatigue go hand-in-hand. When you’re tired, it’s easy to grab a sugary snack for some quick energy. It might seem helpful in that moment, but in the long run this habit can impact your health and affect your weight. Instead of chasing that sugar high, try adding a ginseng supplement to your routine. It may help with energy by rebalancing your HPA axis, a signal network between the brain, adrenal glands, stress hormones and nervous system that can cause fatigue and nervous exhaustion when you’re stressed.5*
- Omega 3
Omega-3 fatty acids are always important for health, but especially when you’re stressed. They help manage cortisol levels, promote a healthy inflammatory response and may increase your metabolism, helping you burn more calories6 —although more research is needed on that last point.*
This new addition to the wellness industry has drawn a lot of interest—and a lot of skepticism. CBD is one of more than 100 cannabinoid compounds found in the Cannabis sativa plant. It’s the second most abundant cannabinoid after THC—making up about 40% of the total cannabinoid content—but unlike its more famous cousin, has no psychoactive effects 7. We’re still learning about all the benefits, but there’s some evidence showing that CBD helps lower cortisol levels, increases calmness in the face of stress and promotes a healthy inflammatory response8. These apparent effects may in turn help you sleep better, lessening daytime fatigue and curbing fatigue-related eating.*
Shirley is a nutritionist with a Bachelor’s in Human Food & Nutrition with an emphasis in Sports Nutrition. To Shirley, there is nothing more gratifying than assisting someone in meeting both their health and personal goals while making everlasting connections.
Interested in supplements, but not sure where to start? Reach out to one of our experts, or take our free nutrition assessment, to learn exactly what nutrients would work best for your diet and lifestyle.